February, 2020 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

So far Madrid has exceeded my expectations. Everything has been absolutely perfect and to say I am enjoying my experience so far would be an understatement. My goal for my study abroad was to have a healthy balance between traveling around the country and continent with other international students while also meeting many locals and integrating myself into the Spanish country as much as possible.

My host family: The first thing I did to achieve this balance was choosing to live with a host family. For me, this was the best decision I could have made on my exchange. My host parents are extremely helpful and kind and go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable living with them and fully enjoying my experience. My favorite part about living with them though is that they don’t speak English, so I am forced to speak Spanish with them. This has improved my Spanish skills quite a bit this first month and they will only continue to improve. I also have a host sister that speaks Spanish to me and has shown me around the city quite a bit. She has introduced me to some of her friends and some very local markets and hidden gems in the city. Because my family and I get along so well, I’ve recently started deciding to stay home rather than going out for some tapas with international students because I often now prefer having a home cooked meal with my family, practicing my Spanish, and spending time with them.

Traveling: Like I said, I’ve been trying to have sort of a balance between traveling on the weekend and staying in the city to experience more of what Madrid offers. What helps my situation is that I have traveled quite extensively around Europe in the past before, so I am not urging to leave Spain as much as other students are. So far in the past 4 weekends I have been here, I have been out two full weekends traveling, one weekend to Paris with some friends from A&M that were traveling around Europe and I decided to meet up with, and to Barcelona with some other international students I have met from my school. I have done a couple day trips too, but only to surrounding little cities near Madrid. My goal is to see more of Spain rather than more of Europe while I’m here and I believe even if I am still leaving Madrid for a couple days, as long as I am staying within the country and surrounding area I am still experiencing the Spanish culture.

School: School has been great. My schedule is honestly ideal. I have a full day of classes Monday and Wednesday and class on Thursday from 11:00am – 2:00 pm. Which means I don’t have classes on Tuesday and Friday. I actually really enjoy going to school because class isn’t too rigorous to where it’s distracting me from enjoying myself on my exchange and also because I use the opportunity to meet many more new people. I have met some great Spanish people in my classes, and I have recently started hanging out more and more with them which is what I enjoy. My goal is to hang out with them more and more as time goes on because I believe having a good group of local friends will help you learn the language and integrate yourself in the culture quicker than any other way. I love my friends–Spanish and international, and I couldn’t be happier with where my exchange is at this moment.

I am still very grateful and blessed to be here in Spain. I often pause and try to remind myself how lucky I am for this experience I have been given. This first month has been amazing, but I am still trying to improve these areas of my study abroad to have an even better upcoming months ahead.

 

Toledo, Spain

 

Paris, France

 

Granada, Spain

 

Barcelona, Spain

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I arrived in Prague, Czech Republic about three weeks ago now and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to study abroad. The first three weeks abroad have really opened my eyes to the world outside of the US. I feel like while living in the US you really get blocked off from the world around you and sometimes turn a blind eye to certain issues because they don’t have an immediate impact on our lives in the states.  It has been really interesting to hear about different issues from the perspective of the Czech students and so far it seems as though Europeans have a much broader and expansive view regarding world issues such as the Coronavirus and others.

During my first three weeks here I’ve felt more and more at home each day, but with each day comes more surprises about life overseas. My first shock was how cheap living in Prague is. For example, the average beer here is served in a .5 liter glass and costs about $1 and a week’s worth of groceries runs me around $20. Also, in most restaurants I’ve been to beer is cheaper than water, which is both a blessing a curse. Another shock I had to learn the hard way is that toilet paper isn’t readily available in most bathrooms so you always have to come prepared. The final main difference I’ve noticed is that staring at people is quite the norm in this country and I’ve found myself eyed down while walking down the street on multiple occasions.

I’m still looking forward to completing some travel and have a ski trip planned to the Swiss Alps this upcoming weekend. I also have a trip to Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona coming up as well. Last weekend I got to visit Vienna so enjoy some pictures from my most recent travel.

Categories: 2020, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

Hola! 

I have been in Madrid, Spain for a month now and so much has happened!!

My arrival in Madrid was very different than I expected. The flight went well; however, when I got to my room in my apartment, a shared apartment with 6 people, I saw that someone was currently living in my room! The apartment was in very poor conditions, dirty, and even though they promised a living room, there was no living room. After talking with the agency, they told me that the person who is occupying my bedroom will be there until the end of January. They relocated me in a small room in the same apartment, but it was in very poor conditions. I never got the key to my bedroom and was the only girl in the apartment, so I felt very uncomfortable spending the night there. Luckily, I had a friend in Madrid who was able to host me for the rest of January. One morning, I went to the apartment to pick up something and saw a guy sleeping in my bedroom! After this incident, I knew that I could not stay in this place. I was able to find a new place and moved-in in February. The place is much better, spacious, cleaner, and my flatmates who come from all over the world are very nice!

Because of my apartment situation, the month of January was very difficult for me. I felt like I couldn’t settle in Madrid properly and was constantly stressed over the apartment situation and if I would get my money back. Even though it was tough, it all worked out in the end and I am now able to fully enjoy life in Spain.

School has been going well! I got all the classes I wanted and only have to go there three times a week because I have both Tuesdays and Fridays off! This gives me the flexibility to travel more and explore many places. Universidad de Carlos Tercero is located in Getafe and it takes me about 50 minutes to get there with public transportation. I prefer to live in the center than near the school because so much happens in the center and there is a lot to do. 

I am taking two classes in English and two in Spanish. The ones in English are very easy, while the ones in Spanish are more challenging but doable! I am glad I chose to take some courses in Spanish because it really helps me practice my Spanish. Speaking of Spanish, I speak less frequently Spanish than I expected to. Here at UC3M, there is a bit of a division between the Spanish and international students. The Spanish students aren’t very interested in meeting internationals and the internationals stay together because they can share more things they have in common. If you want to practice your Spanish more, I would recommend you to take some classes in Spanish or live with a host family.

Lastly, during my stay here, I have had the great opportunity to travel! In Spain, I have been to Toledo, Rascafria, Granada, and Sierra Nevada. Toledo is a beautiful town near Madrid and used to be the capital of Spain! You can go for free with the metro card and it is perfect for a day trip. Rascafria is a two hour bus ride from Madrid and is perfect for a hiking day trip. Granada is in the south of Spain and you can go see the Palace of Alhambra there. Sierra Nevada is a mountain region right next to Granada, and we got to play in the snow all day long. The great thing about being in Europe is that you can travel to other countries for cheap. I went to Paris a couple days after I got to Spain to visit my family and friends. I just got back yesterday from a four day trip to Portugal. I spent the first two days in Porto. The city is beautiful and very authentic; however, a lot of the apartments are abandoned because of real estate laws they had in the past. The city is now doing better because of tourism and is reconstructing itself. One famous thing in Porto is Port wine. I had the opportunity to do a Port wine tasting tour where they take you to three different cellars and wineries to teach you the history about Port wine, how it is made, and how to taste it. I then took a bus to Lisbon and spent two days there and it is very different from Porto. The city is way bigger and industrialized; however, the houses are beautiful and colorful. I highly recommend going to the St George Castle because it has a beautiful view of Lisbon. 

For the upcoming months here, I hope to travel more, discover the Spanish culture more deeply, and meet more people. If you have any questions about studying abroad, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at: catdetorcy@tamu.edu!

Paris, France

Paris, France

Lisbon, Portugal

Granada, Spain

Sierra Nevada, Spain

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

Toledo, Spain

Toledo, Spain

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

The first month of my semester abroad in Nice, France has been one of the most crazy and fun times of my life. I could have never dreamed for a better start to my abroad experience. As soon as I landed in Nice, it was immediately clear that I was now in what seems to be an entirely different world than my home in Texas. I am learning everyday from the locals and other international students about the French as well as European ways of life. The simple things of grocery shopping, transportation, and education at the university level are quite different than they are back home. The trams, buses, and trains have weekly strikes which is difficult for everyone as it is the main form of transportation for most locals and visitors. I have quickly come to appreciate the importance of public transportation, yet I also long for the freedom and ease that comes with having my car. Grocery shopping is done daily instead of once a week as you can only take as much as you can carry. My classes meet once a week for three hours at a time, and my schedule is never the same from week to week. As I encounter many differences that seem to be both minor and major in their own ways, I am beginning to understand the different aspects that make up the french culture.

I find myself in awe of the natural beauty that is everywhere I look. A walk along the famous Promenade Des Anglais is enough to make someone never want to leave. From the top of Castle Hill in Nice, looking in one direction you can see miles of the Mediterranean Sea while looking in the other direction you can see villages throughout the hills to the snowy mountain tops of the Alps. The French Riviera is beautiful and breathtaking as well as home to so many magnificent places. I have traveled all along the Cote d’Azur from Monaco to Cannes and even as far as Grasse. Every city and small village has something different and amazing to offer.

I am very thankful for attending EDHEC Business School as I have learned from the french students that it is known as a very prestigious private school. I am amazed at the diversity of the other international students here at the university. From the first day at orientation, the other international students in the program were extremely friendly and eager to meet everyone. I have made great friends with students from all over the world including Australia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Argentina, and so much more. This has been a wonderful bonus because I have slowly been learning about each one of their backgrounds and cultures as well. Many of us share the same interests of finding the best local restaurants, exploring the towns of the French Riviera, and going to the warm beach every chance we get. I have immensely enjoyed sharing these experiences with my new international friends and look forward to many more throughout the semester.

 

 

Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Hola! I have been living in Spain for nearly a month now, and have had the best time!

I have completed my first two weeks of class, had the opportunity to explore Jaén, and explore some neighboring cities, Granada and Cordoba, too!  My experience so far has been incredible. Jaén is a smaller city located in the south of Spain in the Andalucía region; it is known as the “Olive Oil Capital of the World.” Here, the culture is very laid back, many stores observe siesta hours in the afternoon and close for that part of the day. There is so much natural beauty all around the city as well as historical sites to see! I have loved getting to explore and discover the Cathedral of Jaén in the city center, the Castle that sits on the mountain above the city, and other unique sights of Jaén. I have been able to meet so many cool people as well! I live in a residence with Spanish students, so I’ve made many local friends as well as international friends through the International Student Events hosted by the University.

Living in a residence with people from all across southern Spain has been amazing because I have been able to learn so much from them. I get to hear about their lives and the “pueblos” (towns) they are from. I have also been able to get a great feel for the culture in Andalucía and practice my Spanish!

Through events hosted by the university for international students and through some of my classes, I have also met so many people from other countries! I have friends from Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Poland, Germany, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Russia, and Italy! Meeting people from literally all over the world has to be one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad so far. Everyone has been so excited to get to know one another and share stories from their home countries. Being with such a diverse group, yet finding so much that we have in common is incredible to me! I can’t wait to get to know everyone better as the semester continues.

Sometimes it still feels surreal to me that I am living in Spain and get to go to school here. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I can’t wait for the many adventures in store for my remaining time here in Jaén.

Miranda Walker ’21

Jaén Cathedral at Night

 

“Castillo” de Jaén

 

Touring the city of Córdoba with international friends!

 

Al Ambra in Granada

 

Hiking in Jaen (with view of city and part of the old castle walls)

 

Inside the Castle (Jaén)

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Bonjour from Nice, France,

My first month abroad has been a whirlwind. Life on the coast seems to move at a slower pace, yet it also feels like my time here has flown by so quickly. Since being in Europe, I’ve already had tea in London, England and spent a whole week traveling around Switzerland. I’ve learned a lot, experienced a lot, and grown a lot.

One of the most impactful experiences happened while I was in Interlaken, Switzerland. My friends and I were staying at a Hostel for three nights. While I was there, I met a young woman from Hong Kong one night. We talked for hours that night about what was happening in her home, country she loved so dearly, and the struggles she and all the families in Hong Kong were going through. I was incredibly moved. I shared how my dad escaped Czechoslovakia with his family when he was young because it was under a communist regime. We discussed everything from the coronavirus outbreak to family to hobbies and continued our conversations the following two nights. As we were parting after three nights there, she told me that if I ever go to Hong Kong I will have a place to stay.

While I can go on and on about how beautiful it is here, the history, and the food, I believe that at the end of the day it’s these somewhat simple human interactions that make the biggest impact on our perspective of the world. What I’ve come to realize is that we, as humans have more similarities than differences, and while those differences make us unique, it is the similarities that truly bind us together.

That young woman from Hong Kong is named Christine. She loves to read good books, travel, and spend time with her loved ones. She is also incredibly brave. She and many other Hong Kong citizens stand in peaceful resistance as China is destroying their once economically thriving country. Hong Kong’s newly ‘elected’ ruler was elected by the Chinese government, not the Hong Kong people. Christine shared that most of her friends that are about to have children are considering leaving their beloved country. The prevalent fear among the Hong Kong people is that soon their beloved country will not exist, as they have known and loved it for so many years. Their home will soon be gone. This is truly a tragedy. My heart and prayers are with the citizens of Hong Kong.

Sincerely,

Mary Elizabeth Matl

Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Wow, I never would have dreamed that it would be so NICE to live in the beautiful city of Nice, France. From the moment I stepped off of the plane, I have noticed that I am in a different world compared to the small Texas town I grew up in. From the people and their ways of life to the transportation of the city, it has really been something to get used to. I got lucky enough to find an apartment in the Old Town of Nice. Walking out of my apartment door the narrow cobblestone streets from the past, lead me to the Mediterranean just a few steps away. With everything being steps away I can be eating a traditional French dinner at a Mom and Pop restaurant or eating a picnic on the rocky beach in just seconds. It is amazing how little people use cars to get around here in Nice. To get to school I take a 30-minute tram ride with all of the locals moving about their daily lives. The biggest adjustment I have had to overcome is not having my own vehicle. I now depend on the schedules of others to get me from one place to another. I cannot just jump in my truck if I am running late for school. As France has also been going through political struggles there are many strikes on public transportation. There have been about 4 different days that the buses and trams have not operated because of these strikes. When this happens you have to figure your own way out to get to where you need to go. Most of the time this ends up walking or biking to school. I could go on forever about the differences I have seen here in the French Riviera from Texas, as the way of life is something I couldn’t have imagined.

I have been able to travel and explore the coast by train and I have even made my way to Paris. I was also able to take a week-long trip through Switzerland to see the beautiful Swiss Alps. I have seen and done things that I thought I never would be able to do. I am excited to see the adventures ahead of me as I continue to try to turn my Texas accent into French.

Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange

It goes without say that the French Riviera is beautiful. Since arriving in Nice, I have experienced only one rainy day and have taken full advantage of walking in the sunshine. And I have personally found that the people here match the weather – very kind, happy, and gracious.

Going to EDHEC Business School, a well-known international school, has allowed me to meet people from all over the world. In my favorite class, titled “Researching France,” I sit between a student from Britain and a student from Brazil. A girl from Norway is in front of me, and a guy from Germany sits behind me. Even my professor in this class is both American and French, being raised in New York and Paris. She is fascinating and encourages an open, inquisitive environment in class, often asking a student from each country to share their own culture and perspectives.

One challenge that I have experienced since being in France though, is contending with the strikes. When there are strikes, there is no public transportation system running in Nice which makes it difficult to get to class. But, if you must walk to class, walking along the Promenade de Anglais has the most beautiful view!

When not in class, my roommates and I have found time to travel and look forward to visiting as many places as we can during the semester!

Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange